UNICEF’s work ‘overshadowed’ by media attention on Verwoerd

CHILDREN’S charity UNICEF has said it did not sack Melanie Verwoerd over her relationship with Gerry Ryan but admitted there had been a row over how the relationship had dominated the media.

The charity claimed its work was being “overshadowed” by stories in the media about Ms Verwoerd and were “an unwelcome distraction”.

UNICEF Ireland, in a statement, also said it had paid Ms Verwoerd two years compensation and would defend its decision if she decides to bring a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, claiming: “Ms Verwoerd lost the confidence of the board of UNICEF Ireland.”

Ms Verwoerd had worked as the charity’s executive director but was fired by the charity last week in a move which sparked some high-profile supporters of the charity to withdraw their support.

In the statement released late of Saturday, UNICEF Ireland said it had not dismissed Ms Verwoerd over media treatment of her relationship with the Late Gerry Ryan, but because of “her refusal to accept the board’s view of the matter as being a negative issue for the success of UNICEF Ireland’s mission and the lack of agreement on a sufficiently adequate approach to address the issue”.

The statement stressed the importance of a functioning relationship between its board and chief executive and that it had sought to avoid addressing its differences with Ms Verwoerd in public.

She had worked at the charity for four years following a lengthy spell as South Africa’s Ambassador in Ireland, but her profile was raised considerably when she entered into a relationship with the former 2FM broadcaster.

It was Ms Verwoerd who raised the alarm on the morning of Mr Ryan’s death after she failed to gain entry to his apartment on Dublin’s Leeson St.

In the statement UNICEF Ireland said: “Over the past year or so UNICEF Ireland’s story in the media was being overshadowed by stories relating to the private life of its executive director, Ms Melanie Verwoerd. It would have been a dereliction of its duty for the board not to address this fact so that it could be better controlled and overcome over time.

“Regrettably, Ms Verwoerd did not accept the board’s view that media reports of her private life were an unwelcome distraction for the organisation and did not fulfil the board’s request for her to develop a plan for how future media attention could be refocused on UNICEF Ireland. In addition Ms Verwoerd would not agree to the board’s suggestion that she entrust the function, of a spokesperson for UNICEF Ireland, to another executive for a period of six months in order to facilitate a refocusing of media interest onto UNICEF Ireland’s work.

It was reported yesterday that a UNICEF Ireland source had described Ms Verwoerd as “egotistical”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio former UNICEF Ireland chairman Chris Horn said Ms Verwoerd had a tremendous record in politics. He had appointed her in the UNICEF role but was “saddened” when he heard she had been dismissed.

He added that she was a very private person and he was “at a loss” as to what had occurred.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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